SEATTLE — While Seahawks long snapper Tyler Ott currently stands at six-foot-three, he was born premature.
"My parents had a first hand experience going through it," Ott says. "Not being able to hold me after I was born, not being able to bring me home right away."
His mom's experience led her to discover the March of Dimes, a non-profit dedicated to the health of moms and babies - especially in regards to taking care of premature births. In turn, Tyler has become a lifelong advocate.
"I got involved in the March of Dimes the day I was born," Ott says. "I spent ten days in the NICU in Tulsa, Oklahoma...I'd been involved from grade school, middle school and then into high school, and just kept supporting it."
Now, Ott does the Points for Preemies Pledge, raising money for the March of Dimes with every extra point, So far, he's helped raised almost 40-thousand dollars in the past three years.
"Families are still having children, kids are still being born with birth defects, so the fight can't stop even if we've kind of paused our lives during this time," Ott says.
The March of Dimes is continuing to fight. From funding the polio vaccine in 1955 to helping moms through their pregnancy journey, the non-profit has helped millions of mothers and babies throughout the years. And now that moms are living through a pandemic, the March of Dimes has adapted to this new environment.
"We're shifting from having a lot of our programming in the hospitals to virtual," says Christina Ratkus, March of Dimes Executive Director of Market Development in Washington state.
To their sponsor, Premera, they've grown their supportive pregnancy care program across Washington state, to areas Christina calls healthcare deserts - place where mothers may not be able to access the medical care and support they need.
They're also working to fight racial bias in the healthcare system as well, to make sure all parents and babies receive the treatment they need. If you'd like to learn more about specific programs in Washington, you can email Christina at CRatkus@marchofdimes.org.
And now that Tyler Ott is a dad himself, the work the March of Dimes does means even more to him.
"We're a prime example, my wife and I," Ott says. "People are still having babies in lockdown, so March of Dimes is still so important."